In a front-page article in Sunday's business section, the New York Times takes a look at SAS and how it is increasingly facing competition from both proprietary and open-source alternatives. On the commercial side, more and more vendors are moving into the predictive analytics market eyeing SAS's enviable recurring subscription revenues:
The company also faces the classic challenge of being the innovative pioneer — enjoying rich profit margins but facing new competition from rivals seeking to gain market share with lower prices and substitute technology. [...]
The competitive thrust that really grabbed SAS’s attention came in late July, when I.B.M. announced that it planned to pay $1.2 billion for SPSS, a maker of predictive modeling software. I.B.M. has placed SPSS and Cognos into a new business analytics and optimization group. That business will be supported by 200 scientists, and the company has said it will retrain or hire 4,000 consultants and analysts to work in the group.
But competition is coming from the other direction, too: open-source. The article specifically mentions R, which competes with SAS to offer high-end statistical and predictive analyses. (Incidentally, the New York Times covered R in detail back in January.) Until recently, SAS dismissed R as a threat:
To be sure, the corporate cocoon in Cary can breed insularity. SAS, for example, was slow to recognize the brewing challenge from free, open-source alternatives to some of its products. A free programming language and set of software tools for statistical computing, called R, has become increasingly popular at universities and labs.
The company shifted course earlier this year and modified its software so programs written with R work seamlessly with SAS technology. “Shame on us for not engaging more with the open-source community,” says Keith Collins, senior vice president and chief technology officer. “But we’re committed to doing that now.”
In my experience at REvolution, that's true: I've definitely seen SAS take much more of an interest in R over the past year or so.
New York Times: At a Software Powerhouse, the Good Life Is Under Siege